LAPD Releases Recording Two Cops’ Decision To Pursue Pokémon Rather Than Robbery Suspects


from the serving-(ultra-balls)-and-protecting-(leaderboard-position) dept

In the annals of law enforcement’s neglect — if not actual disdain — for its alleged desire to “serve and protect,” this is surely on of the weirdest and most specific episodes in its ongoing infamy.

It hearkens back to a simpler time when smartphones were mere extensions of people’s desire to catch digital creatures while wandering the real world — an augmented reality game filled with bugs, cheaters, and disappointment. It was also an undeniable hit — a cross-cultural fulfillment of the promise of always-on smartphones that was somewhat tempered by the flawed reality of its… well… reality.

Sure, the average American has long grown accustomed to the careless actions of phone users, whether it’s pedestrians wandering into traffic with their eyes glued to their phones or drivers wandering all over traffic lanes with their eyes glued to their phones, they surely didn’t expect their hired guns were doing the same thing. It’s one thing when some rando does it. It’s quite another when sworn servants and protectors decide to abdicate both responsibilities because they’ve decided the best use of their (paid for by the public) time is hunting down a digital good for internet points.

When LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell decided they were better off trying to round up a Togetic with the Pokémon Go app rather than respond to a robbery call, they were (quite correctly) fired for failing to do the job they were being paid to do.

Of course, these two officers sued, claiming their firing was unjustified. According to the officers, they weren’t ignoring a robbery call in their immediate area to play Pokémon Go. No, they were just using a tracking app to determine what “rare” Pokémon might be in their immediate area.

Petitioners… denied playing Pokémon Go while on duty. They claimed they were monitoring a “Pokémon tracker” application on their phone, but not playing the game itself. As for “catching” Pokémon, Officer Lozano insisted this referred to “capturing [an] image” of the Pokémon on the tracking application to share with friends, while Officer Mitchell said his statements about “fighting” the Togetic referred to “relaying that information to the groups on my app,” adding that, “in order to take the picture, occasionally, the creature will fight.” Lozano said they were not engaged in a game; rather, it was a “social media event.” Mitchell said he did not consider the application a game because it was not “advertised as a game.” Petitioners admitted leaving their foot beat area in search of Snorlax, but they insisted they did so “both” as part of an “extra patrol” and to “chase this mythical creature.”

That argument failed to impress the court handling their case, which declared their firing justified while also holding them responsible for the legal fees racked up by the city to defend this completely defensible firing.

Sure, we know cops are regular people. But we expect cops to be better than us and not so easily distracted by the app-du-jour when in uniform. We expect officers — like anyone else employed anywhere — to fulfill the requirements of the job and put their social lives (or social apps) on hold until they’re off the clock.

Not helping these officers in their court case was the transcript of the dash cam recording. This recording showed the officers actively ignored calls while (just as actively) attempting to hunt down a rare Pokémon. It also showed the bizarre we-just-used-a-tracking-app defense was a lie. These cops were hunting digital creatures rather than robbery suspects, something that was revealed by the LAPD with its release of (I am not even kidding) dishonesty.pdf.

Lozano: “You’re still trying to catch it.”
Mitchell: “Yeah man.”
Lozano: “Gee. I’m lucky then. Dog gone it.”
Mitchell: “Still trying to catch it. Holy crap.”
Lozano: “Ultra-ball. I’m lucky right now I haven’t really needed ultra-balls. I have 250.”
Mitchell: “Yeah, that’s good…what the heck man. Holy crap man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me. Do I have good stats at least? Decent defense blown away by stats.”
Lozano: “You said you did or didn’t have one of these?”
Mitchell: “I don’t have one.”
Lozano: “You got lucky catching that thing.”
Mitchell: “Sure did.”
Lozano: “It shouldn’t be this difficult though.”
Mitchell: “This thing is crazy difficult. Holy crap.”
Lozano: “I saw you mess that up. It still bounced out. Is there going to be another poke-ball higher than that one?”
Mitchell: “Yeah. There’s a master ball.”
Lozano: “At level what?”

At level what, indeed. From there, the officers decided their fellow cops (who they decided not to assist) were going to be far more impressed with their Pokémon haul than their law enforcement work.

Mitchell: “Holy crap! Finally! The guys are going to be so jealous.”
Lozano: “Let’s go back to the 7-11 and sit there.”

Truly one of several nadirs of law enforcement — all of it captured on camera. And that’s what former Vice Media journalist Jason Koebler brings to us from his new home at 404Media. Koebler has obtained the dash cam footage of this bizarre incident via a public records request. The full video of the non-stop inaction runs about three hours. The edited version captures the Pokémon hunt determined to be more worthy of tax dollars than the hunt for robbery suspects in the officers’ immediate area.

It also includes footage of the dangerous driving these officers engaged in during their hunt for this Pokémon Go rarity:

The pair tailgate various cars, who understandably move out of the way. They complain about a light staying red, then clearly drive faster than the speed limit through residential streets, zooming over speed humps as they seek to get to Snorlax before a two-minute timer runs out (which is presumably when the Pokémon would disappear, which they reference by saying “we’ll get the same result as friggin’ yesterday and it’s gonna go pink and change into something else.”) They nearly go the wrong way down a one-way street, strategize which way might be fastest, then ultimately run a stop sign and eventually turn and park facing the wrong way against traffic on what appears in the video to be a one-way street (Google Streetview shows lots of construction in the area). 

Sure, this event may not represent all cops. But it’s a pretty good representation of all people, many of whom tend to prioritize the wrong things. “Cops” remain a subset of “people.” Expecting them to be better than the people they’re supposed to serve ignores the basic realities of humanity. The thing is that cops take cop jobs under the assumption they won’t be as bad as prioritization as the general public. Unfortunately, this is just another incident that clearly demonstrates they’re no better than the rest of us, even if they have uniforms, guns, badges, and the power to deprive us of our rights at any given time.

Filed Under: eric mitchell, lapd, louis lozano, pokemon go

Las Vegas News Magazine

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